Summons must be issued to senior management of Facebook Inc. which oversee the operations of Facebook India to participate in the proceedings of this Ld. Committee, demanded Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) following an alarming press report published in the Wall Street Journal on 14 August 14, 2020 titled, “Facebook’s Hate-Speech Rules Collide with Indian Politics”.
IFF also urged Facebook Inc. to consider financial reparations for victims of hate speech in India for any specific instances identified by the global audit.
“This must encompass physical and mental suffering. Further, since this damage is not economically quantifiable, the assessment must be made in equity. Here we would like to make reference to the practitioners guide on, “The Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Gross Human Rights Violations” published by the International Commission of Jurists in 2018.” it said.
“There are two core allegations which emerge from the WSJ news report. First is the partisan enforcement of hate speech. Second is preferential application of election integrity rules. This endangers close to 300 million users and our democracy,” digital advocacy group said.
Internet Freedom Foundation wrote to the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology for urgent steps including summons to it’s top global executives, extensive hearings and an international human rights audit leading to reparations for victims.
IFF statement reads: “Over years accusations have often emerged from persons across the political spectrum but their impact is most often greater on persons which lack power. It is estimated that Facebook has close to 300 million users in India and is its largest global market. It has massive reach, economic and social power to cause impact. While such social networks facilitate and further the ability for users to avail their rights to free expression which is a goal to be protected, we are often confronted with harms caused by them. This requires systemic fixes and actual accountability to be fixed in a manner which is transparent, proportional and certain.”
IFF said that at present the response from Facebook Inc. and Facebook India has been disappointing.
“They have in press statements indicated that they are working on, “regular audits”, and seeking to improve their “internal processes”. These are vague, non-commitments for redressal and will lead to continuing harms to the close to 300 million users of Facebook in India. These are similar to vague responses similar to when the Cambridge Analytica case first came to light on which there has been little or no outcome. We had referred to specific interventions which need to be considered in this regard inter alia by correspondence dated February 25, 2019,” it added.
Facebook Inc. must take urgent and immediate action as necessary to conduct a full human rights audit of its India operations as conducted as per the report released on July 8, 2020, IFF demanded.
“This process is distinct from regular audits must be established by Facebook Inc. through its global offices that are outside the influence of Facebook India to maintain the safety and trust in this process and its outcomes. Further, there must be a focus on independence, impartiality and transparency with regular updates on progress. To clarify, this full report must be made publicly available as per a similar model adopted for the report released on July 8, 2020,” it said.